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Why is Shabbat candle lighting a woman's Mitzvah?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Candle Lighting | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The Mitzvah of Shabbat candles applies to men and women equally and if there isn't a woman in the house, then the obligation to light the candles falls on the man.

However, for several reasons the rabbis instituted that if there is a woman (over the age of Bat Mitzvah) in the house, she should be the one who fulfills the obligation for the entire household:

a. In the home of the first Jewish couple, Abraham and Sarah, it was Sarah who lit the Shabbat candles.1 

b. Generally speaking it is the presence and contribution of a woman that transforms a house into a home; it is therefore her privilege to transform it into a Jewish home - filling it with the light of Judaism through the lighting of Shabbat candles (and other Mitzvahs associated with the home, such as Kosher and Family Purity etc).

c. Eve, the first woman, introduced sin and darkness to the world through convincing her husband to eat from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. In an ongoing effort to restore the world to its original light women throughout history were given the opportunity to add light, through the Shabbat Candles, and reverse Eve's mistake.2


  • 1. Rashi on Genesis 24:67
  • 2. This is not to say that people are "born in sin". That is not a Jewish concept. This merely says that at creation the world possessed a certain light that (for the time being) it no longer possesses.


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Shabbat » Candle Lighting

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Bat Mitzvah
The twelvth birthday of a Jewish female. On this day -- customarily celebrated with a lavish party -- the adolescent reaches adulthood and is responsible to observe all the commandments of the Torah.
Family Purity
Laws relating to intimacy between husband and wife. The primary point of Family Purity is the woman's purifying immersion in a ritual bath which allows the couple to resume intimate relations after the woman's menstrual period.